The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things we learned about our bodies in the last seven days.
Slow Walkers Are More Likely to Die Young and Finally There’s Justice in This World
That sound you just heard? That’s everyone who lives in a major city high-fiving each other. Because the scourge of city sidewalks everywhere — those folk who amble along like there aren’t literally 500 people behind them with actual places to be — are going to be gone sooner rather than later. (The elderly, the infirm, the pregnant — you, of course, get a pass on this sidewalk rage. Tourists: You most certainly do not.)
The news comes from a study at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Center in the U.K., which analyzed 420,727 middle-aged people between 2006 and 2010. After examining the 8,598 deaths from that group over the next six years, they found that habitual slow walkers were twice as likely to die of a heart attack as brisk walkers, regardless of gender, weight, diet or other factors like smoking.
So next time you’re inclined to dawdle, know that it’s not just everyone behind you who wants you dead — it’s your own body, too.
The New ‘Living’ Cancer Drug Redesigns Your Own Immune System
The FDA has just approved a “new frontier” in medicine: An anti-cancer drug that’s tailor-made for each patient, designed to reprogram their white blood cells to fight cancer. Once these cells find the cancer, they multiply, wiping it out. And it works: Of the 63 patients treated with the drug so far, 83 percent were in “complete remission within three months.” Long-term studies haven’t been conducted yet, but it’s still incredibly exciting news. It would perhaps be even more exciting if each treatment didn’t cost $475,000.
You Can Blame Cheese for the Way Your Face Looks
Or more accurately: The human race can thank the invention of dairy farming for the shape of our skulls. Around 10,000 years ago, our ancient ancestors figured out that it was easier to grow crops and milk goats than it was to forage for berries and hunt mammoths. As a result, we ended up with softer food that was easier to chew — think bread and especially cheese — and the powerful, chomping jaws we used to chew through wild animal meat were gradually replaced by our current, more refined teeth and jawlines. Oh, cheese. Is there anything you can’t do?
There May Be a Vaccine for Heroin Addiction (Surprise! It’s Somewhat Controversial)
Much like the Sinclair Method for treating alcoholism, the idea of the proposed vaccine is to essentially block the part of the brain that lights up during opioid use, making the user rapidly lose interest in taking the drug. Studies on mice and monkeys have so far proved successful, with human trials to follow before too long.
Naturally, this method has its critics, including the valid concern that, for many of those dependent on drugs, there are real issues that led to the addiction in the first place that still need addressing, possibly through years of therapy. Still, anything that can turn off the craving long enough for such therapy to take place without distraction seems like it would be a good idea.
Monkeys See Faces in Inanimate Objects, Too
It’s not just us humans who see faces in, say, a teapot. Or a potato. Or a house. Or a sink. Or a cup of coffee. Or etc., etc., etc. Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health found that this phenomenon — known scientifically as pareidolia — was also experienced by rhesus monkeys, a fact they ascribe to facial recognition being an important part of “maintaining social contact in their natural environment.” As interesting as this is, it’s mostly notable here because it’s about the only experiment we’ve ever covered in this column that wasn’t carried out on goddamn fruit flies.